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Monday, December 22, 2008

What Comes Before a Fall?

here’s a an episode of The Simpsons when a Gay Pride parade goes by and the marchers chant “We’re here, we’re queer! Get used to it!” and Lisa shouts back “We are used to it! You do this every year!”

The entire “Pride” concept is simply dated - it’s too last century, too 80s, too pre Law Reform. The choice of this name for the replacement committee for Hero really makes me wonder what they think they are doing. If the Hero brand is now poison, as it seems to be, then just what makes anyone think that “Pride” is going to be all fresh and new?

“Pride” was never a big movement in Auckland in the past - there used to be those sad little “coming out” marches down Ponsonby Rd in the 90s - and really, could you find anywhere less offensive to gay pride than Ponsonby Rd? The Pride Centre - a debacle, and also a concept rooted in the politics of 30 years ago.

Have you seen the logo ? It is simply embarrassing. It’s tired, cliched, yawningly unoriginal and dull. Which is most likely what this so-called “Pride” thingamy will be unless they can get some interesting young minds involved (Try the SOHOMO crowd). If not, we will be stuck with the suburban bedint excitement of Mt Albert matrons singing along to Bucks Fizz and thinking it’s the height of gay sophistication.

Pride is nice, Pride is inoffensive, Pride is normal, Pride is suburban, boring, and dated.

Heroic Gardens was going on anyway. So was the BGO, even if it’s on a stupid day this year due to a cockup with dates. There hasn’t been a decent Hero Party since the one in the Town Hall, and that was years ago, so I don’t think anyone really had hopes around that. Other events would have happened. So what is the purpose of the Pride committee? It’s hard to make out.

Auckland is the biggest, most sophisticated city in the country, with by far the biggest gay population. We have a wealth of interesting, diverse, creative and intelligent people in our midst. They don’t appear to be on the committee though. And I’ve already heard a few of them express their unease over this whole concept. Let’s hope they can be encouraged to join in and make this actually happen, not leave us with an tired, flacid nothing.

Me - I’m thinking of throwing a “Humiliation” party .

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For...

So we have a new government. Democracy in action, messy, imperfect, but it still beats all the alternatives (except for me being Dictator of the World!).

We now have openly gay and lesbian MPs all across the Parliament, from the Greens to National. Not quite every party, but all the biggest ones. Even our Attorney-General, a National MP, is an out gay man.

What I find both bizarre and wonderful is that no-one has commented on his sexuality. Have we perverts become so mainstream now that when a right-wing Government appoints an open homo to one of the most important positions in Parliament there is no response? And what does this signal? What does it mean for us?

In some ways, it is the culmination of what “we” fought for – the right to be accepted for who we are as full and equal human beings, regardless of our sexuality. In other ways, it the opposite. Let me explain.

There have basically been two streams to the movement for our rights over the last 100 years or so. The one with the longer pedigree is the less radical, simply calling for us to be able to live our lives without the fear of legal persecution. There were some variants to this, with some asking for us to be positively protected, but in general the goal of this movement was toleerance and assimilation, not revolution.

The other stream was distinctly revolutionary and radical in its outlook and goals. This strand is rooted in the classical radical idea that we need a complete revolution in society, and that the emancipation of same-sex attracted people is part of the struggle to free the oppressed all over the globe, which will only be truly achieved through the eradication of Capitalism. Rather than assimilation, it sought a radical re-ordering of the entire social fabric. In its latest guise it has come to us as “Queer Theory”, which made a number of grossly inflated claims as to the importance of sexual identity. It is this last stance that sees all those of us who are outside the norms of mainstream sexual practice and identity as having a common ground to stand on and a common enemy to fight against: heterosexist patriarchal Capitalist society. And this common oppression is supposed to help us form our community.

What happens to that community when the oppression lifts?

What we now have as a result of our efforts for law reform etc are gay conservative politicians who are able to be out and by doing so cause no reaction. We have become normal, no longer exceptional. OK, for NZ, for us to be truly normalised we will need an out All Black whose last minute actions cause us to win the Rugby World Cup. Then we will be unassailable.

This, however, is not the revolutionary result Gay Liberation was fighting for. Instead of working for radical change, we now have an out gay Attorney General who, it could be argued, is working for those forces that the radical wing would say continue to oppress us. But it cannot be denied that the fact the lesbians, gay men, and transsexuals can all be elected to our Parliament now without causing much concern, and this surely is a positive thing. It is a distinct improvement on the days, not that far gone, when being sexually different in any way was illegal, when even the whisper of an MP perhaps being gay was enough to destroy a career. If you are a teenager wrestling with your sexual identity, the very fact that being gay has become so much less of an issue must be good.

What I suspect this assimilation, this normalisation of us as people will mean is this: the importance of sexual identity as a unifying bond that forms a community will weaken even more over time. Our gay community was at its most productive, its strongest, its most challenging, its most exciting and vibrant when we were banded together in our gay ghettos, fighting for our rights, fighting against HIV and the prejudice it engenders and living lives that placed us on the outer of the mainstream. Now many of those ghettos have lost their hearts to property developers and gentrification. Now we are legal and protected, the impetus to band together for political rights has largely gone. I know gay men who voted for every major party. I know gay men who are legally coupled and who live lives of happy obscurity in the suburbs. They did protest once - now they see no need. And many younger gay men coming into the world just don't see the need for "community" that we all once did.

The promise that sexual identity would be a major force in radicalising the world seems to have failed. Instead we have become more and more just a part of the wallpaper. What I think we will see more and more, is that gay men and lesbians will be able to come out, and to be ourselves, and excite little interest. Without a common enemy or cause to unite us, instead of forming a vaguely coherent group, we will stay far closer to our initial social positions. If you are born into a network drawn largely from urban Maori then this will be your main point of reference. Likewise if you are born into the white middle class, it will be this, rather than your sexual identity that will be the main part of your identity. The need for us to exist as a distinct social entity will lessen and fade.

Now I am not for one minute denying the difficulties, emotional and personal, and the prejudice that many of us still have to face, as well as the violence that seems to permeate so much of New Zealand society, but there has been a qualitative change in how we live, how we are perceived, and how we get to interact with our society that I think this appointment to the Attorney-General’s office highlights.And of course, little old New Zealand is not the world - what has happened here is perhaps only comparable to the more liberal parts of Europe - I'm not saying this is the situaiton everywhere.

But the question remains: Is this really what we all wanted?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Puppy Love

We call them, only half-jokingly, our "fur children" . Dogs, cats, whatever pet we have, they enrich our lives.

When I was recuperating from being at death's door in the mid 90s, one of my brothers bought a puppy, much to his wife's horror, with 2 kids under 5 at the time, so I ended up looking after her for 3 or 4 days a week. I took her to obedience class. She made me get up every day and take her for walks, morning and night, summer and winter. In short, even though she adored my brother, she also bonded with me.

I seriously believe that having her in my life helped me in my recovery immensely. It stopped me focussing on myself and my troubles so much, something that's so easy to do. She made me laugh, doing silly dog things. She made me exercise. Having to keep up with a happy, energetic young Doberman cross is bound to make you fitter.

She had "4-paw drive" fast as lightning, up and down hills, running like crazy then stopping to see where I was. Rushing back, as if to say "Come on! It's FUN!" And she did make me happy and give me such a sense of fun. Constantly throwing a stick or a ball is goodfor building up your upper body strength after you've wasted away to nearly nothing.

I was very poor then, living on the Invalids' Benefit. So in winter I'd go to parks and collect pine cones and branches for the fire place. She'd come along too, happy as could be, whatever I was foing was fine, she just wanted to do it too.

And the thing with dogs is they give you unconditional love. Whatever you do is right in their eyes. They trust completely. They love us. And having that unconditional love when I was feeling so sick, so ugly, so diseased, and thought I would be dead before 2000 came in was hugely valuable.

We had our routines.When it was bed time I'd turn off th lights and she'd be on her blanket. As soon as I was in my room I'd hear her jump onto the couch. It was one of those things - we both knew but just decided not to talk about it. In the morning she'd come and wake me up, and after I'd let her out she'd come back into my room and jump up on the bed for a cuddle.

I needed a regular afternoon nap in those days, I was just so weak and tired all the time. She'd come and lie on the floor by the couch I was on, then she'd quietly climb up and curl up at my feet, after giving a little lift of her top lip to apologise "I know I'm not supposed to be on the furniture but..." Of course I always let her stay. I loved having her so close.

Once when I had been readmitted to Herne Bay House my brother brought her to visit me. It was her first time there, and as soon as she came into my room, where I was lying in bed, she started to whimper with excitement and jumped straight up on the bed to see me. I felt loved. And I looked after her as well as I could.

She loved the beach, she loved swimming, she loved learning new tricks, and she was fast and clever, and at times cunning, as Dobermans tend to be.

And yesterday she had to be put to sleep. Too many old age problems, enlarged spleen, cancers, cataracts, hip dysplacia, and worst of all - she'd stopped eating. Just suddenly in the last week, it had all come to a head.

My brother was distraught, as was my niece. And after the news sank in, so was I. I know it's sentimental, but I put Henry Gross's song "Shannon" on repeat. It's a song about his family's Golden Retriever dying.Guaranteed tear-jerker. And I cried.

She was so much a part of my life, and really, a part of my healing. She didn't know or care that I had HIV, that I had to take 40 something pills a day, that I was sick. She was calm, steady, and loving, when I was too tired she'd sleep. She was there. I owe her a huge debt. It's so painful to have that responsibility, of having to kill something you love and one that loves you back so much. It's the Devil's bargain we enter whenever we have a pet with us. The joy, happiness, comfort and love they give us means that one day we will most likely have to decide when to kill them. But that's our duty too.

Bye my darling Keo, thank you for all you gave me. I don't know if I'd be here without you.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me

It's my birthday next Monday. 47. Amazing. When I was 27 and in London and newly HIV+ I was told I had about 2 years left to live. And then when I was 35 or so, back here in Auckland, I was told I had a year to live.

Either the Drs got it wrong, or you are reading the writings from beyond the grave - my advice - don't listen to Drs when they tell you how long you have left. Or maybe we're all stuck in an episode of "The Ghost Whisperer" or something equally crappy.

But they meant well when they did say that to me, and they were basing it on their not inconsiderable experience of what the typical trajectory of HIV infection meant in those days. In fact, back in 95 I was so sick everyone thought I was on the way out, me included. I am bloody lucky - there is no other reason I'm still here but blind luck. I don't think I'm special. I was lucky enough to somehow hold on till the new drugs came through. I know so many guys who didn't make it.

But I confess at times I still find it hard to really plan for the future, and to believe I have one. You'd think I'd have moved beyond that by now, and to some extent I have, but still there at the back of my mind is the little niggling thought that it could all suddenly be pulled away from under me and I'll end up back in hospital, wasting away, delerious, scabby, feverish and unable to get out of bed in time to get to the toilet.

In fact, most of us who have HIV today are able to get on and lead normal lives. It's such a bizarre turn around from what it was. As a certain AIDS activist in Sydney said, the elephant in the room is that having HIV today just isn't that bad. And it isn't, on the medical level anyhow. If you take your meds, and do what your Drs tell you, you'll probably chug along quite nicely. My GP said to me the other month she is more concerned about her patients who smoke than those who are HIV+, so long as we take our meds.

And the only people I know who have gotten sick and died lately are those who have found it difficult to take their meds properly. And that's something I've struggled with at times as well. It is hard. But it's worth it.

The social side of having HIV - that's entirely different from the medical, and that is far harder to manage. We still live with stigma, ignorance, fear and intolerance, not least of all from the wonderfully supportive "gay community". The fear and intolerance HIV+ men can meet from other gay men is startling at times. Luckily not always, but enough to be off-putting unless you're a pretty stroppy bastard, like me. But I know for many others living with HIV is incredibly hard, not so much medically, but on the emotional and social level. Even though we're basically healthy, busy, working, going to the gym, going out, other gay men can be such bastards in how they treat us - largely I think because of what they fear for themselves, because of what we represent and remind them of - their own weaknesses, and their own mortality.

But it's my birthday, so I want to be cheerful and happy. And in general I am. I have a fantastic family, large, sprawling and covering four generations and in both hemispheres, and I know they love me and care for me. I have an incredible set of friends here and around the globe who make me laugh and make me think and don't treat me any different just because my blood happens to have a virus in it. I have work which challenges me and rewards me, involves me with interesting people and pays the bills. I have a roof over my head and food on my table. Having HIV, it's just part of the mix now, it doesn't define me in the way it once did.

And I'm still alive! I can't quite believe I'm going to be 47 on Monday. I can't believe I've kept going this long after being told twice that I'd be dead "soon" because of this virus.

47 - that's like 90 in gay years. Man I'm old...but I'm not complaining.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

To a Young Gay Man...

There used to be a fashion in the 17th century to write manuals of advice for young men. Often they were framed as letters from a father to his son. I was wondering what sort of advice I'd give today to a young man coming out into the glamorous glittering world of gay Auckland.

Because, of course, when I was a young man, venturing out into homoland, there really wasn't anything in the way of examples or models except for Hudson & Halls or Mr Humphries on "Are You Being Served" - and as much as I appreciate them now, at the time I just didn't want to be anything like them.

However, I did start my sex life at the tender age of 15, in the public toilets in the Otahuhu car park. And I just kept going back, there and to other bogs around town. Doing the milk run as we called it. Albert Park, High St, Durham Lane, Customs St and back.

There was no Rainbow Youth to go to - all the advice I got was from men who wanted my sweet young body. Some of them were remarkably kind. Others were not. And I still remember being taken home in the middle of the day by one guy who turned his wedding picture beside the bed face down before we got into it. I guess I was about 16 by then.

But what advice would I give to young gay man in his teens coming out today? It's such a different world.

I think first and foremost, I'd advise him to try and find fuck-buddies close to his own age. There are so many nasty sharks swimming out in the water. It's easy to be impressed by someone who has a bit of money, a nice flat and a car, maybe access to some fun drugs as well. But he will most likely be just using you for your sweet tender body. So sticking to around your own age at first is not bad. You'll also hear from others who the players are, who the sick creeps are, and who is nice.

Make friends. Not just fuck-buddies, but real friends. People you can count on. People who will help you when you drink too much, who will either get you home or ring up your folks with a convincing story. I am still friends with guys I met on the scene here in Auckland back in the 70s and early 80s. Having good friends you've known for decades is one of the best things life can give you. It adds a texture to your life that you can't get anywhere else.

Trust the love your family has for you. Your parents have known you all your life. They probably already have a good idea if you're gay or not. They're not dumb. I'm not saying you have to rush out and tell them straight off - but give them a little credit. They love you and want you to be happy.

I can still remember ringing my parents when I was 18 after (breaking all my own rules here) getting picked up by a sexy guy in his 30s who had a nice car and house. I rang them after midnight, apologised and said I was too drunk to get home but I'd be back in the morning and was crashing at a friend's house. They thought I'd been very mature.

Drugs: You'll probably end up doing some no matter what I say. Just don't do too many all at once - it gets messy ! And always make sure you have a friend around who knows what you've taken. And keep your phone charged and close by. If it has a needle or a broken light bulb attached - don't.

Dance ! God, when I think back as to how much I loved to dance when I was in my teens and 20s. I could dance for hours - now, more a happy memory.

Do I advise you to trust or to be suspicious? Frankly, there are so many lying shits in the world, gay or straight, that you won't be able to avoid them whatever you do. And it sucks to go through life being suspicious of everyone you meet. So I guess I'd advise you to listen to your gut instinct. And take a chance - trust people more often than not, but if you start to feel a little uncomfortable, if you start to hear a little voice in your head going"Hmm, I'm not sure..." then listen to it and move on.

Be polite. I don't mean you need to bring out your Nanna maners - but it always pays to be nice to people around you. Listen to what they say. Show a little respect. It's the old story - treat them as you'd like to be treated.

Pay your share of the bill. If money is tight, either don't go out, or tell people first that you're broke so everyone knows where they stand. Don't wait till the bill arrives to do the Aussie haka as you pat your pockets looking for cash.

Look after your body. It is where you live. It can give you the most intense wonderful pleasure. If you treat it badly it can treat you badly back, and that ain't fun. So be good to yourself. Get some exercise - trust me, that youthful muscle tone will go suddenly if you don't. And please - don't get HIV. Condoms and lube! Always !There are so many guys out there who have it who won't tell you. Look after your self.

Be as honest as you can. Sometimes, a little deceit is better than sticking to the truth. But never lie in a way that will really hurt someone else.

Fall in love. God, your youth is the best time ever to do that. But try and do it with someone who's falling for you too. The pain of one-sided love is no fun. But if you both can ride the wave, just go for it.

Above all enjoy it. It really is a wonderful life, and being gay lets you experience parts of it your striaght brothers and sisters will never know. You will come to see life from so many different angles and meet so many great people along the way. Enjoy it. Love yourself.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Shake Hands? Or go on a date?

There's a joke that for gay men, having sex is like shaking hands. It's just what we do, you know, it's how we say hi to a stranger. And there's an element of truth to it, after all, as gay men we are defined to some extent by what we do with each other with out clothes off. Or at least flies open. And it's often said that nzdating should really be called nzfucking, cause that's how we treat it.

And I'm not complaining about this. Casual sex is one of our great treats.

But what about dating? Why don't we seem to do that in this country? I was talking about this with an American friend recently, and he claimed that over there it's actually quite normal to go out and have a meal, maybe a coffee or a drink, and not fall into bed straight away. From what he said, they sometimes even do that two or three times before they do fall into bed.(OK, not always, and maybe not so much in NY). And I was also talking with another friend, who is, sexy, and smart, runs his own business, and he said to me "Why can't I meet a partner?" He can get laid ok, but meeting someone to actually spend time with and that you can introduce to your family? That seems way harder for us gay guys as a group.

So why don't we date? I think this is an interesting concept. Imagine, getting to know someone a little bit before getting your rocks off? Wouldn't that be an interesting and novel experience?

And you know, I think there is something to be said for it. Without the total focus going on getting laid, maybe we'd actually get to develop friendships and find out if we really liked the other guy. For some reason, it often seems harder to do that after you've fucked I find. It often seems that sex first equals friends, or acquaintances after, or even less. How many guys have you had sex with that you've never called again, or can't remember their names when you see them out next?We seem to have this sexual culture built around the chase, the hunt, getting it, then leaving. I wonder howgood this is for us as a group.

One of the things that strikes me when I talk to young gay guys, in their teens as they are coming out, is that they so often say they want a boyfriend. I've perhaps gone on about this before. But it's such a common desire. A boyfriend. A mate. Someone to hang out with, to go out with, and yes, to fuck with too, but they really seem to show a desire to have a steady mate in their lives. And I think that's something that most of us can identify with too.

And I think that what our gay world does, with its emphasis on sex as a way of saying hello stranger, it makes it so much harder actually for young guys to date without the pressure of sex. We have such a sex centred culture in the gay male world that we miss out on some of the emotional side of things, the intimacy, the getting to know each other, the friendship and trust - all things that I think you need to make a relationship successful.

I suspect this part of our long legacy of having to live a life in the shadows. We were illegal and persecuted for so long, that we tended to take our pleasures on the run as it were. Gay male culture has set up certain patterns and these are hard to shake off, even now. I'm not against recreational just-fro-the-hell-of-it sex. Hell, if you've read any of my previous posts you'll know that.

But maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing if we tried every now and then to actually date. To go and sit down, to talk, to get to know each other. Why not save shaking hands for really shaking hands at least some of the time, and spend the time to get to know each other a bit better before jumping into the sack. Treating the other person like an adult,a fellow human being, with needs and hopes and fears, instead of just a piece of meat to consume, I think it might lead to some interesting developments, and, let's face it, some more grown up forms of interaction. You're highly unlikely to want to spend the rest of your life with someone just because he's a great fuck - right?

Perhaps we might all be surprised at the outcome.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sticky Keyboards

You are of course reading this online. Which is where I, and many of us, spend an increasing amount of our time now. In fact, I spend way too much time here. Apart from reading my favourite blogs, overseas newspapers, local ones, & checking youtube, there's Facebook to update and play on, (stop buying all my pets! You know who you are!) Livejournal for a slightly different set of friends around the world, gaynz, and of course, all those fantastic gay sex dating sites. And have you checked out luriddigs.com!?!? And think how much poorer our lives would be without access to lolcats?

Not to mention the more legitimate uses, such as doing academic research through databases. And I should make it clear I'm really writing about the world I know, gay men online, not the other segments of the queer world.

Even though I had net access at uni, my introduction to the online world really began in 2001 and I went online at home, when kind friends passed on their old PC to me. I was hooked. One-handed typing had its attractions, but I don't know why, I no longer find cyber interesting.

gay .com, or as other friends called it, gay.dum was my main social site at first. And I met quite a few hot men there, quite a few good men, and sometimes they even were combined. Also met some two-faced lying bastards but hey ... that's another blog. I'd sit down and chat, in the old days before photos and so on were easily available (the net was steam-powered back then) . Just chat for ages to all sorts of people all over the place.

Hours slipped past - not for nothing is the net called a timesink. It is easy to watch it all just disappear in a day. In fact at times it seemed that talking online was better than talking in real time. Now that's odd when you think about it.

Here in NZ it seems to me that men looking to hook up with guys for whatever reason, have taken to the net with a passion. I leave nzdating on in the background nearly every time I log on, and gaydar too (not at work boss, honest...) . More often it's just to swap messages with friends than to do the deed it seems, but hey, you never know your luck. Planetromeo is great too, but used too little here to be much fun. In fact I've been registered on so many different sites I've forgotten a good number of them now. every now and then I get an email from some site I joined ages ago and forgot about, but I can rarely be bothered to go back to them. If they didn't grab me in the first few weeks, they're not going to now.

But what happens to us and our social lives when we interact so much on line? There has been a lot of talk about how the net has changed, some say almost killed, gay society. Bars and clubs certainly seem to find it harder to keep a crowd. And sex. Well, why go and pay a sauna or fuck-club when you can place your order online? I order my pizza online, why not my fucks as well?

The downside to it is that all the convenience of online life tends to isolate us even more. Instead of meeting mates in bars, or of striking up conversations with strangers, whose preferences we don't know, instead of learning those social skills, such as how to confidently talk to a stranger in a bar or club, we now automatically filter out all sorts of social interaction.
In the past you didn't necessarily know what that guy you were eyeing up in the bar was into. Were you in his age-range? Were you his type? Into the same things sexually? You had to actually communicate with each other and figure these things out, and this also meant you got to talk to and meet a wider range of guys. Now, when we go online, we can typically see exactly what the other guy is into, and whether or not we fall into his set of ideal parameters. Instead of talking to a stranger, or perhaps a friend of a friend, and discovering some common ground, negotiating our lust and possible love, we now see exactly what is and isn't desired.

Hairiness/height/ethnicity/age/weight/role/ - it's all there on the screen in front of you.

We filter, they filter, and people get excluded. And the exclusion is not just sexual, it's social as well. And this is not, I suspect, a good thing for our gay world. Where we used to physically congregate, we now sit in our homes alone and chat.

I love the net, don't get me wrong, I don't want to see it end. But I guess it's like all technologies, good and bad. And the social consequences for groups like gay men have yet to be fully worked out.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Hi, My Name is Michael and I'm a Diseased Pariah

Well, it happened again. Met a guy online, chatted a bit, figured out that the filthy, perverted, friendly things we enjoyed would complement each other's need for perversion and filth nicely. Agreed to safe sex, naturally. Met up in a neutral space so we could each back out with dignity if the reality didn't quite match up to what life online had conjured up. We both fitted our descriptions and agreed we still wanted to do filthy things to each other.
Then I told him I was HIV+.
Fear, confusion, doubt and... "Look", I said, "if it makes you uncomfortable then hey, let's forget it - no point trying to pretend." He was grateful for the chance I gave him and he left.
I didn't have to tell him - and I don't always tell everyone I get naked with. That's why we do safe sex guys - so we won't catch it or pass it on. In fact, I can remember about 7 or 8 years ago at a bar being told off by a guy for telling him my HIV status - as he said "We're all supposed to look after each other and ourselves - if you have it or not isn't an issue if we use rubbers" (or words to that effect). And that was part of the original basis of safe sex, this idea that we should all look after each other, and using rubber meant you could still be a filthy slutty sex-pig and stay safe from either getting it or giving it.
But guys today don't seem to have that understanding, or so it seems to me. There seems to be an assumption that those who have HIV have a duty to disclose and according to some guys we shouldn't even consider having sex.
FYI - Legally, in this country, we don't have to tell anyone, so long as we keep our partners safe.
The thing is, when you meet someone either online or in a venue, and you agree to safe sex, then why the hell does finding out that the other guy is poz make such a difference? Don't men believe that safe sex works? Or do they really hope to be able to rip off the rubbers halfway through in the heat of the moment? Or do we in fact remind them of the possibility that they too may have it, but they just don't want to face that: That safe-sex something these guys only pay lip service to, and they are in fact being confronted with the fear that by their other actions they might already have exposed themselves to HIV? I think that is the case for many guys.
I sort of understand, but then, I don't. We know condoms work at stopping transmission of HIV. Fact. And after all we gay men invented safe sex as a way to keep on enjoying ourselves and stay safe at the same time. We were practical that way - we didn't want to have to give up all the fun and freedom we'd fought so hard to win.
And let's face it, it can get pretty bruising to the ego to get knocked back this way. I'm pretty used to how guys can react, so I think it doesn't affect me a much as others I know, but it still isn't much fun I have to say. I used to just include it on my on line profiles so I could avoid having to go through it all, but that just seemed to be the kiss of death (ha!) so now I wait till we meet and then decide whether or not I feel like I need to say anything.
But you know, it really shouldn't be an issue, if we just follow the steps we all know about. I suspect it's more of an issue here in NZ than in other countries with larger gay populations. Fewer guys around today have actually had anything to do with HIV and there is probably more of a sense of fear and mystery - and HIV does bring sex and death together in a particularly volatile way.
Luckily for me, not everyone reacts this way. There are still hot sexy men who don't miss a beat when I tell them and keep on being filthy friendly perverts as we step out of our clothes.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hold Your Nose - and Vote

They're having an election this year, in case you hadn't noticed. God what a dismal set of options we have before us.

Labour? They seem desperate to stay in power, and willing to do just about anything to do so. But so tired, so arrogant, (witness their indignant howls when the Auditor General demonstrated they'd broken the law) and so out of touch. Plus I don't recall seeing the EFA on the list of promised policies before the last election, when I did vote for them. If they'd had that on the list I wouldn't have. Their constant spiteful attacks on John Key for being successful just don't do it for me either. I know whoever was in power would have cosied up to China, but I find that country as morally bankrupt as apartheid era South Africa. But Labour won't mention a word on those issues.

National? Moving so fast to the centre they're nearly indistinguishable from Labour on social policies. Economically neo-liberal still (no thanks!) and not really sure how far they can be trusted to do what they say. And look at their front bench - Night of the Living Dead! Lockwood Smith! Maurice Williamson! Toni Ryall! Ugh...

Greens? Lovely people, I admit, and honest and reliable, which are attributes not to be dismissed lightly in politics. But I don't sign up to cults these days, and the Greens' perpetual battered spouse role to Labour (witness their handwringing angst every time Labour does the dirty on them, yet they keep coming back for more, because they know, deep down, that really, one day Labour will show how much they love them and let them sit at the big table). I suspect I wouldn't really want to live in the world the Greens want to bring about: I've tried the hippy communal thing and it just isn't me.

Maori Party? Too homophobic for me - Tariana didn't support Civil Unions, and again, I don't sign up for cults. I also don't go along with the trend that says "Indigenous culture = automatically wonderful". Indigenous culture is just indigenous culture: it has its pluses and minuses like anything. And I'm not Maori.

NZ First? You're joking, right?

I know, it's easy to be cynical, to be dismissive of hardworking good people. And I know people in a number of the parties who are all those things. Sometimes I think if we could get rid of the parties and just vote for the best people... but no, that wouldn't work either.

Voting often involves going for the least bad option, it certainly does this time round.

I have moved away from my radical Marxist/anarchist ( I was indecisive - sue me) youth where I wanted a revolution that would change the world. More experience of the world, travel, study, and education has taught me that revolutions are nasty, do not achieve what they set out to, and end up fucking up a huge range of people. Except for the few who stay in power at the top.
In some ways it is naive of me to hope for anything really good to come out of any political system. Politics is about the excercise of power, and this always involves making some better off and others worse off. I know I don't want to be in the worse off group. Who does? But if I am anything I suppose I am a Human Rights hawk, a proud supporter of the best parts of the Western Enlightenment Tradition.

What about the economy? I'd say the global economy is a dog and New Zealand is flea on its back - we go where it goes, and as everything has become more and more globalised, our Government has less and less power to really affect any changes in it. And if we fall off the dog won't even notice.

It's all very uninspiring - the parties are all next to hopeless, but I'll still vote. Because if I don't I can't complain. And whoever gets in, you can be sure, I'll complain.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Conoisseurship: The Fruits of Experience

I was talking a bit about types of men we find sexy with a friend the other day. I don't know if I have one anymore.

When I was younger I used to have a type, or types, of men that I found attractive. I am old enough to remember being young with men who had long hippy hair and untamed beards, dressed in flares and wearing love beads, smelling of patchouli and were sweet and gentle and passionate. In my early 20s, they were in their early to mid twenties (28 seemed so old, 30 ancient) slim, trim, but not covered in muscles - I don't think the uber-developed gym-body was around in those days when I think about it. I have always liked a hairy chest, I have to say. And for some reason, a man's back has always been a major turn on for me. Some backs are like warm ivory shields, and tracing the muscles and lines of them as I lie entwined is still something I enjoy. Legs too, I've always been a leg man. I can remember deliberately standing at the bottom of the stairs at school to watch the other boys going up in their shorts, and admiring their calves and thighs.

As I got older, and more experienced, I got into different scenes.

The whole leather scene was a big turn on for me in my early 20s, living in Australia and the USA. The men in it seemed so confident, so sexy, so potent and also always seemed to be having so much fun. The clone look of the late 70s and early 80s was powerfully attractive too. Plaid shirt, short moustache, short hair. Overtly, calmly, celebratorily masculine - a move away from that earier hippy style for sure.

Then things shifted - I moved away from the centres of the gay world to the edges of Europe, lived in Turkey for 8 years. The men there were different again. The men often looked like clones, but they weren't - that was their natural style. The short hair, moustache, jeans and leather jacket was just the ordinary working uniform of so many men in Turkey. Very odd to have to rearrange all your assumptions about what it meant to be a man. And also to realise that the man in the tea house with his hand on your knee wasn't trying to pick youup - it was just the normal way for men to be physical with each other. But it did contribute a bit to a slight erotic haze.

Ethnicity, skin colour, has never been a huge issue for me. I think I've always been fascinated by difference, turned on by the way a Maori, Chinese or Indian skin looks when its excited, but just as turned on by pallid north Europeans or olive-skinned Mediterranean types. Red heads with that pale freckled skin - so beautiful.

Now, I don't care really all that much - hairy, smooth, tall short, skinny, chubby, bald, long hair, fair, dark. As I was chatting to my friend, I said this to him, how now it can be something as simple as the lines of muscle in a man's forearm, the shape of his hand, or the way he smiles, the shape of his beard or the smootheness of his skin or a certain way of moving, that can grab my erotic interest.

He turned to me and said "You know, you have to have been a real slut to get to that point."

Friday, June 27, 2008

Memory, Loss and Memory

The tragic suicide of Dr Matt Wildbore last week as well as the imminent publication of Dr Chris Brickell's new book "Mates and Lovers" made me think of a few things.

One thought that I keep returning to is the way our history, individual and collective, is so fragile.

For many younger men in Auckland, Matt Wildbore is not a name they'd know. For me, and I guess for my generation, he was a symbol of compassion, of care, of fun, of bravery and support through the worst days of the plague. He was vocal, he was courageous, he cared. The effort he put in, and also the efforts of many others, through those dark days when all you could expect after an HIV+ diagnosis was to get sicker and sicker and die, usually terribly, perhaps in your own shit, emaciated, blind, demented, unable to recognise those around your bed who loved you, it seems that history, that part of our culture, has been lost to some extent.

It's as if the generation coming straight after a terrible war had no idea of the struggles their parents had been through. Tragedy is now ephemeral.

Before, the stories of a culture's suffering and bravery, generosity and struggle, all formed part of the collective memory, something that could be referred to, something that was passed down from generation to generation. The essentially fragile, tenuous nature of gay culture and community makes this hard enough in the first place, but given that so many who did fight so bravely, who nursed, fed, wiped the arses of and cleaned up the vomit of their friends, lovers, or even strangers, or quietly looked after them as they descended into AIDS related dementia - these stories are now, it seems to me, largely gone, and certainly I think unknown by many younger gay men. They just don't know what it was like. And that is maybe a good thing. But somehow it seems sad to me too that the struggles and amazing bravery displayed in the face of such terror and hostility are so quickly slipping from our collective consciousness.

But then the work of Dr Brickell gives me heart. He has undertaken meticulous scholarship to find out the hidden history of gay men in New Zealand from the 19th Century on. He has taken active steps to recover our past. If we are to ever really have a gay community, if it is possible, then understanding where we come from, our whakapapa, our heritage, our past, is essential. Knowing that men in the 1860s or 1920s looked to other men for love, for sex, for joy and for support, just as we do, is a tremendously important thing for us all to take on board.

The stoic in me remembers the words of Emperor Marcus Aurelius - "So many who were remembered already forgotten, and those who remembered them long gone" and it is true - the world is full of unsung or forgotten histories and biographies that are filled with acts of love, bravery, sacrfice, joy and tragedy that have been forgotten and blown as dust to the wind.

But I want to remember - and I want young gay men coming up to remember too. I want you to know where we came from, what we went through, because it matters, because without all this we wouldn't be here today, and so you know a bit of what we had to do to get here, to this place where you are able to live in a level of social acceptance that seemed impossible to even imagine for me 30 years ago.

Remember. Remember all of it - the good and the bad, the extraordinary and the banal. It is part of us all, part of who we are and how we all got here.

Celebrate your life, love it, enjoy it, embrace it. But remember.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

How Strange Life Gets

A good friend, who at 44 is a couple of years younger than me, had a heart attack the other week (henceforth known as HAM -Heart Attack Man). Given that he smokes like a chimney, and in his drinking makes me look (at times) like a Salvation Army officer, perhaps it’s not surprising. Worrying, as I am very fond of him, but maybe not so surprising.

Another friend, also younger than me, but only by a few weeks, has been living with a nasty cancer diagnosis (henceforth known as CB - Cancer Boy) for the last 2 months.

Both of these guys, myself and another friend (let’s call him the 4th), were sitting chatting the other night on K Rd. CB and HAM were sort of swapping notes, while both were smoking still (I can be smug as I haven’t had a ciggie in weeks and weeks now) joking a little, when I asked the 4th if was ok, and he assured me he was, and he asked me if I was ok, and I said “I’m fine thanks, just fine” or words to that effect.

There was a slight sort of pause, then I said, “Well, apart from the AIDS thingy”.

And that’s the weird thing. My AIDS diagnosis really is such a small part of my life now. Just a “thingy” I have to deal with.

I received the news in 1988, 20 years ago now. As one Dr in London told me, “You’ve probably got about 2 years or so left, why not go home to New Zealand and be with those you love” - “Get Ready To Die” is what she meant. I neither came home then nor died. Another Dr here in Auckland gave me a year to live in 1995, when I was very, very sick and pretty well living in Ward 9C or Herne Bay House. Again, unless something very major has happened and I missed it and you have all been humouring me, I haven’t died yet.

Instead, here I am, middle-aged, worrying about my weight and waistline, wondering why I no longer seem to want to stay up dancing till dawn , wishing I had a good man in my life (applications for this post may be left in the comments section below) and trying to get a career going.

And getting seriously worried about the health of my younger friends with non-HIV related problems. Everyone use to be worried about me, and the rest of us poz people. Now I worry about my friends, and not for HIV stuff.

It is all rather disorienting you see, as I spent a lot of time and effort getting ready to die. I was determined to die well, to have “a good death” and had even chosen the music (several times in fact, always totally different) for the whole thing. I did Buddhist meditation, I went through Kubler-Ross workshops, I beat phone books to shreds with garden hoses (long story), I studied death in Western Society, hell I even lecture at University on it! And yet, I still have to pay the rent, find something to eat, and remember to put the rubbish out. I’m still here. The world is still turning. And dear and good friends are coping with their own health problems that could well see them pop their clogs before I do at this rate.

I’m not complaining mind you. But this Friday night sitting on K Rd, it really brought it home to me. For most of us with HIV, if you do what your Dr tells you, take your meds properly and take reasonable care of yourself, well, we’re likely to be around a fair while. Long enough to worry about friends with cancer or coronary problems.

Who’d have thunk it?

Question for You

Here’s a question for you: Do all immigrants to New Zealand, or any country, share the same issues? I mean, do a multi-millionaire French immigrant and his American wife settling in Marlborough and running a vineyard have that much in common with an IT peon from Shanghai in Wellington? How much does either one share with a Samoan wife joining her husband and his family here in South Auckland? They all have to adjust, they all come from somewhere else, they’ll all feel a bit different here, for a while at least, but their social and material conditions are vastly different, and this will affect how they adjust to life here.

I ask because from among the mailing lists I’m on, I received one the other day that had this acronym - GLITTFAB = gay, lesbian, intersex, transgender, takataapui, fafa’afine, asexual, and bisexual. What an assortment! And why on earth are we all grouped together? That’s what I don’t get. As a gay man, I think I do share a few interests with lesbians. We get to wear a few of the same labels and get some of the same shit thrown at us by wider society. But otherwise, my dyke friends and I often see things differently, where they mainly come at political issues from a feminist perspective, and I don’t nearly as much.

Thinking of my ACT supporting gay male friends who base their politics in libertarianism, they just want all and any regulations regarding adult sexual behaviour removed. But they sure as hell don’t share my lefty feminist influenced ideas on sexuality. And they take more drugs than I do. Which they also want deregulated.In fact they want pretty much everything deregulated.

Transgender? It’s not the same thing as gay – nothing like it in fact. It’s an entirely different issue. Whether FTM or MTF, they’re not gay men or lesbians. They aren’t same-sex attracted and I honestly don’t see what interests we share. And some of the MTFs I’ve met just seem like heterosexual men in a dress. They cling to old pre-Feminist ways of being “a lady”, some stay on with their wives, and some I can think of even beat their wives up still, but then claim they’re oppressed. It’s not the same sort of oppression though, is it

Intersex – well, I accept that the issues facing those born intersex are real and serious, but don’t really speak to or impinge on my life as a bumboy I’d have to say. They occupy a difficult place in society, and I’m supportive of them, but do we really belong in the same group? I don’t think so

Asexuals? Please! Fucking and who and how we fuck is one of the key characteristics that sets us fags apart – asexuality doesn’t really speak to this side of life at all. Just don’t have sex – is that really that hard? Does it need a civil rights based political liberation movement behind it as gay rights did? Really? When was the last time someone leant out a car window and screamed “Asexual pervert!” or they got denied a job or a flat because they aren’t into sex? On a subjective level, I’m sure it matters to them, but I have to say not so much to me.

I know some Maori gay men who entirely reject the label takataapui, and find Maoritanga completely irrelevant to their lives, they relate to the world and themselves as gay men first, and I know others who rate being Maori first, and put their sexuality down as a minor issue.

For some reason we’re all expected to be adequately addressed by being in this grouping. Doesn’t work for me. (apologies to Mr Herkt)

It’s not that I’m blind to the difficulties or oppression that others who are outside the sexual norms of society have, far from it. But to lump us all together as one, as this seems to do, is starting from a false premise: to me it’s saying that just because we fall outside the bounds of heteronormativity we all have a shared set of political, material, social or cultural issues. I don’t think so. And to some extent it is defining ourselves by heteronormative terms.

I blame the academic rubbish heap known as Queer Theory for this. Theresa de Lauretis is usually credited with coming up with the term “Queer Theory” in a 1989 (I think) paper. I don’t think that where it has gone now is necessarily where she envisioned it going, but that’s by the by – academic theories often get picked up and run away with by all sorts.

Yes, there are many ways of being sexual (or even asexual) humans outside the restrictive norms of mainstream society. But just because we’re not sitting in the majority doesn’t mean that we all share common interests either. This grouping moves from biological categories (intersex) to arguably more socially constructed ones (gay & lesbian, though the nature/nurture debate on that still isn’t closed by any means) and one only made possible via modern medical technology (transgender). We can all be labelled “queer” but I think that masks more than it reveals. And by doing that it silences some.

In New Zealand today, the oppression that used to rule over so many of us has lessened considerably, especially if you’re a gay man or a lesbian. And we got those rights through concerted political effort made over decades.

Am I unsympathetic or politically unsupportive of the rights of intersex or transgender people? No, not at all – but do we all fit into the same category? I think not.We’re just as varied, just as diverse in where we sit in society as the group of immigrants I listed above. As they are, we’re from minorities within a larger society, but some of us are going to be able to settle in with far greater ease than others.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Such a drag...

A message from a guy I don’t recognise on nzdating - “So, do you still paint your fingernails black?” How long ago was that? 1981? Did I ever paint them black?Maybe in my late-70s wannabe punk days. I remember whore red, sometimes with turquoise glitter laid over the top when the varnish was still wet (cosmetics were more limited in those days). Not sure about black though. I did have black hair with pink stripes. And then lime green hair with a big pink triangle that came down over my forehead to the tip of my nose. I can’t remember all the rest of the stuff I put through my hair. It changed colour regularly. I used to have a beautiful white angora mini-dress, from Streetlife I think. I wore it to my first anti-Springbok tour protest outside Air NZ house, complete with the lime green and pink hair, and tights, one leg pink, one, you got it, lime-green with, I think, red boots. After getting baton-charged I started to wear more protection to protests.

I remember having a pair of black stilettos that fitted (I have big feet). I used to like to put on a pair of tight, torn Levis, a white T shirt, leather jacket, early 80s clone outfit, big glittery earrings and the stilettos, and wander along Jervois Rd, stoned, and watch the people watching me. It was fun.

I remember buying a length of cerise silk from Wah Lee’s on Hobson Street, and standing on the back porch of our house in Albany Rd, , draped only in that silk. Glen Morris, my flatmate standing with me, both of us shouting “Cerise!” as loudly as we could, disturbing the suburban calm. We liked the word. I think we were on acid.

We called ourselves “The Empresses in Exile of Sodom and Gomorrah”. Glen’s been dead 15 years now.

I can remember being upstairs at the old Aquarius (I think, or maybe it had changed to “Staircase” by then) in Fort St one night, when around midnight, there was a sudden pause in the music, a sort of throne was put on the stage, and what I believe I was told was one of New Zealand’s first transsexuals came up and enthroned herself, and then a procession of young men in drag, I think all in white, came out from the back bar, each with a male escort, and were presented to the queen on her throne. A mockery of the old custom of debutantes being presented to the monarch. It was funny, and fun, and tongue-in-cheek.

Although I used to do drag occasionally, I wasn’t a drag queen. It’s been a long time ago now, but I remember it as fun. I did it more to shock than for any other reason. Drag in the middle of the day on a busy street is a lot more subversive than drag in a gay club at 1 am.

And now, look around Auckland’s gay scene, and the rest of the country, and you can’t go out to a venue without tripping over a boa belonging to a professional “drag artiste”. It seems the same in Australia too. Less so elsewhere. Drag is big in this part of the world. I’m not sure why.

The professionalisation of drag is yet another instance of our mainstreaming. What used to be a marginal, witty, cutting-edge, in-joke sort of thing, has now become an object of academic theory and capitalist commodification. Drag queens can now make good money performing at conferences, acting as MCs for various groups, and somehow we’re supposed to think they’re all “fabulous”.

I don’t. I’m bored with drag.

It has lost its danger, its edge. Today it’s just one of the tame acceptable faces of being gay. There is nothing subversive about it, and all too often, nothing very interesting or talented either. Lip-synching to divas? I’d rather listen to the song without the visual pollution.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

If Only it Were That Simple...

So I see the idea of “Negotiated Safety” (NS) has been re-appearing, both here on the message boards and in the rag. Actually, that’s unfair, Mark Farnworth in express actually wrote a fairly good, if historically uninformed piece on the topic. And at first glance it is easy to see why people go “Why doesn’t NZAF push this idea…?”

NS was first “named’ by the Australians, Kippax et al, in 1993 if my memory serves me right. They claimed they had ‘identified’ it as a strategy being used by gay men to avoid getting HIV.

I guess Mark was still in primary school when this first surfaced back in the early 90s. Official NS goes something like this: you and the guy you’re with go through a 3 month minimum process of discussing the idea, figuring out how much you trust each other, how easily you can talk about your sex-lives honestly and openly (and that’s never a problem, right?), with a counsellor, then it’s about getting tested, sharing your test results, waiting another month or so, and keeping on talking about it all, getting tested again, and then promising never to fuck around without condoms and put your partner at risk. Whoopee ! No-one has ever lied to their partner about sleeping round, right? And once you get out of the habit of using rubbers, just how many more chances are there for a little slip-up with someone you’re playing with on the side?

Now, that 3 month minimum “talk, test,talk,test,trust” idea was one thing, but what was seen immediately after this was promoted was that guys were meeting in bars and fuck-clubs and “negotiating” their safety over a few beers while feeling horny.

Horny gay men took it as an excuse to throw away condoms.

Well duh!

And HIV infection rates in Sydney went up.

Well, double duh!

Let’s face it. Gay men have been making their own risk assessments around HIV since we first identified the virus back in 1981. Some times guys have decided that the other guy looks “clean” (God I hate that word about being HIV-) and therefore it’s all fine. Sometimes they even ask each other if they have HIV, and trusting the other guy to tell the truth, move on that. The thing is there is nothing new here folks. We’ve been doing it since Year Zero of the epidemic. And yes, HIV+ guys will more often than not throw away the rubbers if they’re with another poz guy.

The trouble with this is that NS is not that effective a strategy for safe sex promotion, for keeping HIV negative men HIV negative, which is what organisations like NZAF are charged with.

Let me give you a comparison. Let me confess, there are times I get into my car and drive when I would be over the limit. I have never once been caught, nor have I ever once caused an accident driving this way. So I must be able to drive anytime I like when I have been drinking, right? Or maybe I’ve just been very, very lucky?

I can’t imagine the LTSA ever saying “Gee, a lot of people seem to be able to drive without killing anyone after a few too many, let’s start a campaign about how to drive a bit more safely when you’re pissed.” That is what NS effectively amounts to.

Does the Cancer Society tell you how to smoke safely? No? Why not I wonder, after all, my grandfather smoked from the age of 12 and died when he was 84. Mean Cancer Society must be hiding something from us, those killjoys.

Of course you can “negotiate”, and guys have been doing it and will continue to do it, no doubt about that. But to claim it is a good idea to promote it in terms of getting an HIV prevention message across, sorry, I can’t agree with that.

Part of my research involves interviewing guys about how they got infected. And I have at least one gay guy who was in what he thought was an honest, loving committed relationship, where they decided not to use condoms, and he got infected by his partner. They “negotiated” their safety, (I don’t have it, do you? No, cool…) except the HIV+ guy was so freaked out about his condition he couldn’t admit he was positive and that every time he put his dick up his boyfriend’s arse he was exposing him to HIV . So much for love and trust protecting you.

Yes, gay men will go on making their own risk assessments, as they have done since the start of the plague. Sometimes they’ll get away with it. But not always.

The idea that NZAF or any other organisation charged with promoting safe sex and with a special responsibility for gay men would push this as a safe strategy is just dumb. If you believe that it is a good thing, you really don’t get what the NZAF is there for. Guys do it, have done it, and will continue to doit, but it’s not a safe-sex strategy.
If you want to make sure you don’t get HIV, but want to enjoy a good sex-life, then use rubbers and lube.

I can guarantee you that every year some guys in New Zealand will practice a form of NS, just as we have since the 80s, and that some of them will get infected by people they thought they loved and could trust and some by total strangers they “negotiated” with in a bar the night before.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bar Flies

I like bars. But, I do like a drink and chat. And even with their drawbacks,
bars are one of our main social spaces as homos.

There are guys I know from bars and only from bars. We never or very rarely
socialise outside them. Yet we know each other, or we know about each other. I
think the gay male world is one of the few places where you can know a guy’s
intimate details, you know, how big his cock is, whether he likes to top or
bottom, what sort of men he goes for, any special kinks, does he like to get
pissed on, or get turned on by leather, and still never know his surname, how
big his family is, what his living room looks like or what he does for a
living.

But you will know what he drinks.

In fact, you can know all that about another guy without ever having talked to
him or even had sex with him. You see, we do tend to talk to each other and
about each other.

Every time I see one particular guy walking down the street, I think “There goes
Mr Accident” after a friend told me of an unfortunate occurrence with him one
night, resulting from a combination of too much lube, too many toys, and not
enough douching. Nuff said. And I’ve never even spoken to this guy, and doubt I
ever will. I don’t even know his real name. But I know about that unfortunate
night.

You know the ones behave like dykes i.e. move their music collection and
furniture in by the end of the second date and insist on going to the SPCA and
getting a puppy together.

You know their opposite - the masters of the mixed-message : they are all over
you, they chase you, they send you suggestive texts at odd hours, then, just as
you think things are getting good, they disappear. A few months later they see
you, their eyes light up, they explain how busy they’ve been, and then, they’re
gone again.

You know the party-boys, the drinkers, the pill-poppers, the p-heads, the bitter
cynics, the eternal romantics, the stoners, the predators, the parasites, the
drunks, the bears, the twinks, the twink-chasers, the daddy-chasers, the happy
couples, the not-so-happy couples, the cock-teases, the sluts and of course the
arrogant “I am so hot I wouldn’t let Dan Carter fuck me if he asked”
gym-bunnies.

The funny thing with the gym bunnies is so many of them are of the “see Tarzan,
hear Jane” types. They spend hours at the gym, they are pumped, they are
ripped, they make the All Blacks look like the Invercargill RSA Ladies’ Senior
Bowling Team. They open their mouths…and sound like Hudson and Halls but
without the wit or talent.

And then you see the serious leather guys, dressed in their dead cow, with their
cigars and facial hair, piercings and tatts, talking about real-estate, recipes
or the opera… I do recall years ago in the old University Club on Collins St in
Melbourne, when I was 18 and fresh *wistful sigh* a this really hot guy saying
to me once “The more leather and chains they have on, the more invisible lace
there is floating in the air behind them”

Yet beyond all this, there are real friendships I have made through the bars.
Even at times when I don’t know very much more about these men, I have had long
intense and interesting conversations, often over months, taken up again every
Saturday night, about life, love, sex, politics, travel etc. Sometimes these
even move beyond the bar – that tentative transplant, like lifting a delicate
plant and re-potting it, moving the friendship into another social setting.
Will we still like each other if we meet in a café, or over a meal? Usually the
answer is yes.

And we do tend to look out for each other. I’ve been picked up a few times off
the floor when too many different substances in combination have had an
undesired effect, and done the same for others too.

The most memorable one was downstairs in the Mineshaft in the 80s in New York.
It had been a very long night of partying and sex, and things were winding
down, when someone gave me something or other, and the next thing I remember is
two huge leathered up muscle boys leaning over me, one fanning my face with his
leather cap saying “Oh honey, are you ok? You don’t want to pass out down
here!”

Fancy a drink?


Monday, March 3, 2008

LOVE !

LOVE MAKES ME GAY

I don’t think about why I am gay so much these days, unless I have to. When I was an angst-ridden teenager, it occupied my mind considerably.

Why was it that I had no sexual interest in girls, like the other boys did, I wondered? Why did I enjoy showers so much, all of us standing around in the communal shower room, talking and soaping up. Why did I keep thinking about guys all the time? Why were all my wet-dreams based around men, not women? What was wrong with me and how could it be fixed?

I was terribly confused, full of self-doubt, and sure there was something deeply “wrong” with me for all this. My family would reject me, if they ever found out, as would my friends. I would be an outcast, a weirdo, unloved and unlovable forever. And it took me a while to get over it, quite a while really.

But when I think back to before my balls dropped, I remember that even as a five-year old, while I enjoyed hanging out with the girls in Primer 1, I also really enjoyed the few boys who were my mates. I wanted to be “best friends” with them. I was emotionally attracted to them, in a sweet innocent childish way.

How I see things now is that, for me anyhow, being gay isn’t about sex, as much fun as that is. It’s about that emotional pull.

What makes me a homo is that I want to have my primary emotional relationships with other men. The sex is great, it’s fun, but it’s the icing on the cake rather than the cake itself.

I am gay because I love men. Not just because I fuck them. And from the conversations I’ve had with other guys I am sure I’m the only one at all.

And I think that’s a really important point to remember.

As gay men we want to love other men. We are attracted to other men, not just sexually, but with our hearts and our minds.

I’ve often been struck by the way young gay guys who are just coming out, when they are 15 or 16 or so, will say “I want to find a boyfriend !” They want a guy to love and to be loved back by. It is this emotional drive that , to me, really makes us gay. And I was certainly like that back then too. Yes, I dreamed of sex, but I also dreamed of love, with a man. I wanted a guy in my life, not just his cock.

What does our gay scene offer though?

Bars, nightclubs, fuck-clubs, saunas, sex, drugs and booze. All of which, I hasten to add, have their place. Trust me on that!

But we are utter crap at giving ourselves and young guys coming out a social environment where they can have a chance at meeting each other without the pressure of sex. And we are utter crap at doing this for ourselves as we get older as well.

It is as if the gay world has been stuck in this time-warp, all we do is go to bars and clubs or fuck clubs or the internet. And while exceptions exist, they are not exactly conducive to meeting like-minded guys who you might actually be able to think about forming a life with, through sickness and health, good times and bad. Yes, I know I’m generalising, there are gay bowling groups, gardening groups and so forth, but for most of us, I’d say that it is still the bars that form the centre of gravity, or increasingly, chat-rooms. But most of the chat tends to be about sex.

And the straights focus on our ‘peculiar’ sexual habits too. Putting things up our arses and in our mouths and so on. Yet really, how much time do you spend fucking in even the best relationship? A lot of it is about whose turn it is to cook dinner or why didn’t he buy milk on the way home when he knew he used the last of it that morning on his muesli, or being there by his side when he thinks everything in his life is crap. Relationships aren’t all flowers and fucking.

But it’s the love of men that makes us queer I reckon. To love, and to be loved by another guy. That’s the key for me. That’s what makes me gay: it’s all about love.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Cock !

I’ve been thinking about cock a lot. Well Duh! I am a homo after all. And I’ve seen a lot of cock in my life. OK, more than just seen.

I mean, of course I like arses, legs, arms, chests, stomachs, armpits, faces, etc, but really, if a guy doesn’t have a dick, well, as they said in Sex and The City, I’m just not that into him.

But guys, never give your dick a name “This is my mate, little David” – it’s so straight.

And cocks are all so different. And I don’t just mean size. Some are aesthetically perfect, beautiful objects, that have just the right colour, size and heft (you have to hold it in your hand and feel the weight to really know how good it is) - they just look perfect on that guy’s body. A good heavy cock is a delight. And the arguments you can have over the virtues of cut vs uncut. Gives a whole new meaning to wearing a hoodie. Not to mention the debates on the merits of length vs girth. Hours of fun. Most cocks are ok to good, which means they are great, even though most of us are insecure about our own.

Now let me add to your insecurity.

Let’s face it, some are downright ugly. And there is no rhyme or reason. I’ve seen some of the most beautiful cocks on some of the most ordinary looking guys, and some really ugly cocks on guys with gym ripped bodies and GQ faces. Life can be so unfair.

And how can you separate cock from balls? So sensitive, such fun to play with, to fondle, to squeeze, to lick and again, so many shapes and sizes. Big and bouncy, low hangers, tight nuts, hairy or smooth or shaved, and happily resting on your chin. Ah, balls. Love ‘em. And again, some are just objects of pure aesthetic delight, and some, less so…

The ugliest cock I ever saw was in 1985 (it is etched into my memory). It was in Turkey, and after a bus-breakdown in a small town I ended up sharing a room with another passenger on the bus. He kept making passes at me and I kept backing away. In the morning I woke to find him parading round the room with his underpants pulled right up the crack - he was trying to get me to fuck him again, and finally pulled his pants down to reveal what I can best describe as a tiny frost-bitten rosebud. In Turkey, boys don’t get circumcised till they are about 10, and his had gone wrong: very, very wrong. I was up and dressed and out of that room so fast.

Size: ah well, there’s the perennial issue for all men, and especially gay men. Who ever worries their cock is too big? And I have to say, I’ve never met one that was. And I’ve met a lot of cock over the years. Have I already mentioned that? And most of us, whatever our ethnicity, are in the 5-6 inch range. They have even done repeated studies on African men that show that the super-size black cock is really just a myth. Or a piece of nasty objectifying racism, depending on your politics.

Some guys do have small cocks. And some of them can be really beautiful too, and fun to have fun with as well. I’ve had some great sex with guys who had little ones. But the anxiety and embarrassment that having a little cock can give gay men, an audience who are, like me, phallically appreciative, is not to be ignored. If it’s any comfort, the Ancient Greeks thought small cocks showed you were civilised, and big ones were marks of being like an animal. But who listens to the Ancient Greeks these days?

The tyranny of porn, where dicks are nearly all at least 8 inches or look that way, is partly to blame. And the fantasies we create in our own heads. And of course, most guys under-estimate the size of their own dick because we look down from on high, rather than being able to gaze with wonder and delight from the front.

Is there a way around size anxiety? I guess it’ll always be with us, some how or another.

But as much as I love cock, the main thing to remember is that there is actually a living person attached to the other end. So if when the pants go down and it’s not what you’d thought, remember what your mother taught you and be polite! - there’s a guy standing there in front of you, naked and vulnerable, with a heart as well as a cock, and he surely deserves to be treated as well as you do, whether his dick is out of your wildest dirtiest fantasies or leaves you less than impressed.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Weekend Gossip Round-Up & The Big Gay Out

Seymour Butz Sauna Sessions at Urge were the place to be on Saturday night. Dirty hard great hip-thrusting dance music. The random DNA count on the floor and all around the place probably went up quite a bit. And a certain real-estate agent was seen early in the morning wandering along K Rd in nothing more than a towel (and I know he had nothing on underneath, trust me I know).

So what do you think of silky boxers with cartoon characters on them? I mean, are they a fashion statement, or a cry for help? Or does it just show a really rejection of the tyranny of fashion? Or that your mother still buys your clothes even though your 30? Because a certain gay Auckland journalist wears them, I know, I saw, at Urge ;-)


On Sunday, in spite of rain in the morning thousands of Auckland homosexuals descended on quiet suburban Coyle park on Sunday, to celebrate, um... well, to celebrate anyhow. Bears were bearish, hairy and sweaty and beery. Twinks twinkled, Dykes dyked, Queers queered and drags, well, dragged. I mean looked fabulous.

Hangovers from Urge and Family seemed to be a prominent part of the conversation.

Richard No-Mates stood around the GABA tent looking lonely for a little while then disappeared back to his empire. His minions skulked in and out as well.

A Sydney DJ on being introduced to the Prime Minister: "Hello, I'm Helen" "Hi, I'm Johnny... and what do you do...?"

A purveyor of illicit substances was seen chatting in a friendly way to Police, making one wonder just what sort of customers said purveyor has.

And a certain someone with a reasonably big bearish profile had to be held back from pulling out the special cookies as the PM's cavalcade and Police escort hadn't quite left the area...

The Leader of the Opposition hogged the GABA tent so the PM and party couldn't get in - tch tch tch. They can't be seen together it seems.

Apart from one broken leg, it seems it all passed off without incident.

Hot, humid, sticky - and I only saw 3 or 4 guys I can be sure I've slept with. But I got a few new numbers so hey, it was a good day, right?

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Did you read it? did you believe it?

That dumb "article" in the latest depress that hints, without ever saying so explicitly, that something is deeply wrong at the AIDS Foundation, again, It's one of their favourite themes for some reason. The article is a mess of innuendo and non-sequitirs.

I must confess, I used to sit on the NZAF Board and was even the Chair, but that was a while ago. So while I've never been an employee there (though I have just started some consulting) , I do know it pretty well, and I'm happy to criticise it when it needs it, trust me, but this article was just rubbish. You do wonder if anyone at depress has any journalistic training, I don't know, but I suspect not. Oh, yeah, just remembered, I used to work for depress... So you know, I'm sort of, impartial.

Let's look at what they said. The Headline claims there are "Community Concerns" well, gee, there's a piece of hard detailed news. Who is this "community"? They never actually seem to identify anyone, just "a number of readers" - that's stretching it to start, I mean, do they have a number of readers?

Some staff have left - well, I seem to recall a number of editors going through the revolving doors at depress pretty promptly - does that mean they are managed badly and have deep-seated managerial incompetence issues? Or maybe people just find they'd like to do something else? Let's face it, people move on from jobs all the time. NZAF has over 40 (I think...) employees around the country, so a bit of turnover aint that unusual. Gee, maybe some of them weren't really that good at their work either - that's possible.

The Chair resigned? So what? He was there for over three years, not a bad run really for a voluntary position.

Tariana doesn't seem to like the NZAF. Well, she doesn't like queers very much either from memory. She wasn't in favour of the Civil Union Bill, said so at a talk on the marae at Auckland Uni. So to me it seems that in her eyes we're not good enough to be treated like the rest of our citizens. And I for one am still waiting to see hard evidence that there is some hidden "Maori" epidemic of HIV out there, and no-one I know in the field seems to think there is or see any evidence for it. Show me the data, and then we'll talk. Till then, I don't think Tariana is someone I'd take advice about HIV from, really.

Apparently one of the "concerned readers" thinks that NZAF buying the building they currently rent is a sign of defeatism. It means, acording to this "reader' they think HIV is here to stay which seems to send the wrong signal.

Well duh. Hepatitis is here to stay too, so is meningitis, so is cancer buddy. It's part of the landscape now, barring some medical miracle, we won't be rid of it, so we have to learn to live with it as best we can. Buying the building instead of paying rent seems like a pretty good idea to me.

And the worst possible sin - they were too busy to answer the carefully considered questions depress had doodled on a napkin before ringing up. Gee, don't they know they have to drop absolutely everything when depress calls and wants some copy to fill their pages? Shame on you NZAF, for having other priorities rather than immediately answering their questions. The arrogance of you, to think that your work (you know, Safe Sex promotion, getting the Big Gay Out up, running a major NGO) could be more important than the needs of the "reporters" at depress. get your priorities right !

Now, I remember when depress used to be a damn good newspaper. It had strong community ties, it had real reporters working there even. So it's a shame to see the way it is now. Filled with stuff off the net, and... a whole lot of NZAF ads...

What would happen if NZAF stopped advertising you wonder?

Rant over. But guys, you really need to lift your game.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Hello

Writing, like cigarettes and good sex, can get to be an addictive vice, and I'm a happy addict of at least two of those mentioned.

I also love to read, and to read intelligent thoughtful reporting on what goes on around me in this world, especially the microcosm that is gay NZ, or really, for me, gay Auckland. So as that is not easily found, I thought, what the hell, I'll blog about it from my point of view.

One of the reasons is I get so pissed off with the crap of what passes for our "gay press" - the printed stuff here that is. Cheap, shallow, sensationalist and driven only by advertising, it typically lacks substance. Will I be any better? Maybe not, but I'll have some fun, and maybe you will too.


So if my other addictions don't get in the way (and I'm trying to stop smoking again) I'm going to use this to put up my views, which being mine and mine alone, are bound to piss off a few people, but hell, that's their problem, right?